Chair Mike Orr - Welcome Back Message

Post date: Aug 14, 2015 3:14:51 PM

How well do you know yourself and those around you? Most educators would agree that this is a subject important enough to talk about. This year as we move forward with the theme, “Desire to Inspire”, knowing our students and peers will continue to be important.

We know you and believe that you would appreciate honoring the memories of the teammates we lost last year, Charlene Thomas of Micaville Elementary, and Chrissie Ray of Burnsville Elementary.

One Sunday afternoon last fall, the Micaville teachers, support staff, and administration met in the media center in numbness and pain. They came together because they knew they needed to.

This staff knew themselves and they understood what must be done to prepare for students that would be returning to them in a matter of hours. While dealing with their own grief they planned together and on Monday morning they welcomed their students.

It seemed no time before more suffering returned. This time the administration had less time for preparation because even as students were entering Burnsville Elementary for their day in the classroom, news of another loss was unfolding.

Our superintendent knew the Burnsville staff well and that their struggle between professionalism and emotion could surface since they had had no time together to prepare. A plan was made with the principal that both acknowledged the needs of the staff, and that modeled healthy grieving for their students. The staff responded effectively because even while fighting their personal shock and loss, the welfare of their students remained the top priority.

There were others that understood the unique needs that Micaville and Burnsville had during their grieving and responded accordingly. Sister schools and individuals alike reached out in their own ways. They sensed their offerings would matter.

In June, when the last student bus left the parking lot for the summer, the Burnsville staff still had a need. They had not grieved together as a family. These comrades knew that they needed time together so that is what they did.

Last year was tough, but the reason for my words this morning is not to rehash emotions but to celebrate the strength of Yancey County Schools. In exceedingly difficult circumstances Yancey County Schools charted a course and kept students first. That is of course why we are here.

I have been talking about, “knowing ourselves and those we serve,” but let me change focus slightly. I recently listened to an aspiring school superintendent speak of his formative years when he taught middle school up in Crossnore. I thought his experience was worth our time today because he also believes it is important to know students in order to understand their needs. The story from one of his post evaluation conferences went like this.

Hypothetically his principal asked him, If a visitor to our school randomly chose ten names from the student roster, could you describe the specific needs and challenges of each student, or..... identify another adult within our school that could. In other words, is there an intentional adult on staff in your school that can articulate the unique needs of every student in your school? Granted, Crossnore is a small school and beyond that, I believe this principal was trying to get the young teacher to think beyond his classroom.

It is ok for us to question, is this strategy necessary? Is it practical? How about worthwhile? But.... could it make a difference as we, “Desire to Inspire?”

Incidentally the superintendent in this story was hired in May to serve the 35,000 students of the Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston, Texas. While he was a student in Yancey County he attended Burnsville Elementary, Cane River Middle, and graduated from Mountain Heritage in 1985 I think. It is safe to say that Yancey County Schools inspired and prepared him well.

Earlier I asked, “How well do you know those around you?” We know that understanding student needs is important in tragedy but it is more important as we do our routine.

Routine is important because it accounts for a majority of our time. Thankfully, the hardships we share, and the formal observations for which we make ready are not routine. Routine is instead, how we prepare lessons for the ordinary days; how we pull duty; and even how we supervise the four minutes before class is over. Routine for some is making sure there is on going parental contact. Routine for others is thanking those that help them serve their students.

Routine, very simply, becomes what we choose. Our routine is either monotonous or exciting. It is either repetitive and unchanging or it is inspirational.

The board realizes the success of Yancey County Schools depends on you. We thank you and continue our encouragement as you do your work. Have a good year.